Always A Bigger Fish
March 22, 2019 2:13 PM   Subscribe

Continuing his series on the Alt-Right Playbook, Ian Danskin of Innuendo Studios takes his newest video to discuss what conservatism actually believes in, and why that basis makes it at odds with liberalism...and succeptable to fascism. (SLYT)

In follow-up, Danskin takes his detractors to task by thoroughly showing his homework.

The Alt-Right Playbook previously.
posted by NoxAeternum (88 comments total) 58 users marked this as a favorite
 
That was really thought provoking. And timely for me since I was already on a Contra Points kick today.
posted by solotoro at 3:17 PM on March 22


tl;dw conservatives subscribe to a Darwinian, traditionalist model on culture that rewards winners and punishes losers (and how eerily that bleeds into fascism), liberals argue we are enlightened and interconnected enough to transcend those hierarchies and should seek to share the plot. (Full video is worth watching, however.)

Fun Fact: The term "meritocracy" was originally coined as satire
posted by Christ, what an asshole at 3:46 PM on March 22 [16 favorites]


huh, interesting. I'd like him to do one similar for liberalism.

And on that note, I've been listening to the Revolutions podcast since it started. I'm fascinated if the left and the right still have the same basic beliefs as they did in the french revolution, or if our changing technology and finances have altered and shifted things.
posted by rebent at 3:48 PM on March 22 [2 favorites]


"Freedom, respect, and empathy are looked on as finite resources in a competitive market."

Oh god, this explains so much.

I DO approach discussions with conservatives as though it's self-evident that surely everyone (by virtue of simply being human) deserves the same consideration as everyone else. It's depressing to acknowledge there are people who actively want to preserve inequity--even if they themselves are negatively affected by it!!--because they think the status quo is the only thing preventing pure chaos.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 3:54 PM on March 22 [46 favorites]


Or that it is ordained by a greater power and thus sacred.
posted by Scattercat at 4:01 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]


Usually I like Ian Danskin a lot, but this felt like a slightly weird caricature of one part of conservatism to me.
posted by pharm at 4:24 PM on March 22 [4 favorites]


I'm with pharm. From conservative standpoint, I think Mr Danskin sounds like he doesn't quite understand the perspective about how inequality itself is vital to sustaining a burgeoning civilization. Provided social mobility, it gives people hope. There's a bit too much of a zero-sum caricature of capitalism in this video for my taste; rather the conservative would be more likely to insist on positive-sum, rising-tide-lifts-all-boats sort of thinking.

But also, I'm very much a committed liberal, and firmly believe that the US Constitution has done the best job so far of creating a system to successfully federate power and enshrine individual rights against state tyranny. I'm also completely on board with guaranteeing these rights aren't arbitrarily denied people based on things like sex or skin color.

So I suppose when Mr Danskin is drawing a distinction between "liberal/democracy" and "conservative/capitalism," it just doesn't really resonate with me. I believe in all of the above, which motivates me to reject a lot of the current leftist thinking.
posted by phenylphenol at 4:59 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Usually I like Ian Danskin a lot, but this felt like a slightly weird caricature of one part of conservatism to me.

I'd recommend watching the follow up video (also in the OP), where he shows his work. He didn't just come to these conclusions randomly, but actually looked at the actual philosophical background of capitalism and conservatism.
posted by NoxAeternum at 5:08 PM on March 22 [9 favorites]


Oh goodness, getting to the second half of the video now -- this is a terrible piece that just dives into identity politics and us-versus-them zero-sum thinking. What a shame that the whole piece just devolves into ridiculous tribalist assertions about conservatives, based on an impoverished understanding of what's actually going on here.

sigh.
posted by phenylphenol at 5:20 PM on March 22


Oh yeah this combines a lot of things I’ve been thinking about recently, the innate starting point of all conservatism is the preservation of hierarchies (as another writer said, hierarchy of the factory, the field, and the family) and the inability to imagine a genuinely egalitarian society and that when you think about any political tendency you have to ask “how does this effect the power structure?” I’ve been reading a lot of history of English and French revolutions the throughline seems to be that incomplete revolution don’t fundamentally change the power structure - the jacobins’ couldn’t give the peasants the land reforms they really wanted, the Attlee social welfare state didn’t remove the power of the rich in controlling politics, etc etc
posted by The Whelk at 5:27 PM on March 22 [15 favorites]


i lasted about 3 minutes - listening to his jumbled summation of both sides in that argument was enough - and i say that as someone who thinks free college is a good idea

there was no attempt at a coherent argument on either side there
posted by pyramid termite at 5:31 PM on March 22


I'm much reminded of William F. Buckley's quip, "The traditional conservative political sin is greed. The traditional liberal sin is lust for power." This was from 1974, interviewing George W. Bush.

Mr Danskin seems to be particularly fixated on power and how it's distributed, when he tries to understand the difference between the left and the right. But that's just not the way I conceive it.
posted by phenylphenol at 5:34 PM on March 22


I dunno, I found it coherent and as compelling and complete as a ~20 minute video was likely to believe. Asserting that conservatism is rooted in a veneration of hierarchies, which makes it weak to cooption by Fascism is hardly a shocking claim, for example.
posted by GenjiandProust at 5:39 PM on March 22 [23 favorites]


...was likely to be. I’m using voice to text, and I have a cold. It is a trial, let me tell you.
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:02 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


Mr Danskin seems to be particularly fixated on power and how it's distributed

This...is what politics is, no?

I usually like these videos, but I don't think this was one of his strongest.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 6:03 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


this felt like a slightly weird caricature of one part of conservatism to me

this is a terrible piece that just dives into identity politics and us-versus-them zero-sum thinking. What a shame that the whole piece just devolves into ridiculous tribalist assertions about conservatives, based on an impoverished understanding of what's actually going on here.

From conservative standpoint, I think Mr Danskin sounds like he doesn't quite understand the perspective about how inequality itself is vital to sustaining a burgeoning civilization.


The piece provides something of a "low-resolution" picture of conservatism, and in so doing arguably flattens some of the concerns involved and a landscape that's more varied than a slippery slope to fascism.

But that's a different argument than that he's *wrong*. A lot of what makes its way through popular conservative discourse *is* low-resolution, flattened stuff that resembles what he's describing very strongly. Also, the idea that other people may have value structures that are very different from yours is a super key one to understand.

If you don't believe Danskin, take a dive into George Lakoff or Jonathan Haidt, who Danskin is either relying on or inadvertently channeling. Hell, watch Jordan Peterson's course lectures for his U Toronto course Personality and its Transformations -- you may imagine Peterson and Danskin approach politics very differently and perhaps they'd have little patience for each other when it comes to a discussion of what the political left is doing, but a whole lot of what Peterson says about psychological temperament measures and how they're expressed through political values and approaches to hierarchy matches up descriptively (even if Peterson might make different value judgments about that fact -- which is consistent if you're approaching the topic of value structures descriptively).

The picture it presents is discouraging, for pretty much the reasons Daskins covers -- as long as you think everyone shares your values and their priorities, it's easy to suppose at some level that everyone is a potential progressive who just hasn't hit enlightenment yet, and when we get enough people enlightened, we'll have an enlightened society! It's an appealing story, it gives everyone an in to redemption for everyone. It's exactly the kind of story someone with progressive values is going to love. But what if when we look at the world and how people actually work, what we see is that politics are at some level driven by different values, and those values in turn are driven by temperament that's firmly wired down in your biology?

It's still not hopeless, really -- Lakoff would say there's a middle whose values are less firmly wired and you can reinforce progressive tendencies with the right framing. We've also seen how PoC can move white supremacists with their humanity. There are margins that can be won with hardworking, principled, caring outreach to those who seem to be deplorables. People -- maybe most people -- can make choices. Daskins also covers this with his nod to the idea that most of us are a mix of the primary dichotomy he holds up ("democratic" and "capitalist").

But I think it's also important to understand that differing values and underlying temperaments genuinely exist, and past some point on the distribution towards conservative leaning, persuasive engagement attempts will reach greater and greater forms of resistance to progressive values.
posted by wildblueyonder at 6:17 PM on March 22 [14 favorites]


not his strongest. perhaps by dint of the magnitude of the canvas and concomitant breadth of his brushes. subject matter of prior videos in "the alt-right playbook" has been much more tightly focused, one tactic of the "alt-right" at a time. here: the whole spectrum of modern political thought in two voices. granting that it's gonna be "conservatives are like this" and "liberals are like that," it offered some good, if exceptionally broad, discussion. on preview: what wild blue yonder said.

the endnote, though, was fantastic. surprising twist: he changed his credits music from trans am to dredg.
posted by 20 year lurk at 6:23 PM on March 22


To me, the hierarchy looks like a consequence of the core conservatist belief as identified by Frank Wilhoit: that there must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

These are the groups that correspond to Danskin's sharks and minnows. And given the historical and ongoing existence of groups that do in practice stand in this relationship to assorted kinds of law, the hierarchical power relations between them are natural as there is no countervailing force that prevents them.

Conservatists tend to have a viscerally disapproving response to Wilhoit's summary of their core position and react to it with pure derision rather than attempting to mount any serious argument that it is not in fact what they believe. And in so doing they reveal what I have come to see as the single most prominent characteristic of the conservatist thinker: the almost total lack of even the minimal self-awareness required to realize that every fault they criticize in out-group members is equally if not even more strongly present in the in-group.

Egalitarians labour under no such delusion. We know that the emperor is as intellectually raggedy and bare-arsed as anybody else. We just tend to be a little better than conservatists at acting as if Can ≠ Must.
posted by flabdablet at 6:25 PM on March 22 [24 favorites]


The 'conservatives don't trust you' bit is a big deal and it's something I've come away with from discussions with e.g. old bosses. They really do think we are after their trucks and guns and houses.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:40 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]


Also, the idea that other people may have value structures that are very different from yours is a super key one to understand.

I suspect this is what inspired the video in the first place - as a series that has had a focus on 'here is a scenario, he's what the tactic is, here's how you deal with it', at some point you have to deal with why conservatives don't seem to be too concerned with fascists in their midst despite them wanting different things, and why they don't seem to be receptive to leftist arguments that fascists are very very dangerous. It's a different worldview - and so what, in broad strokes because summarising conservatism is the work of a lifetime, is the difference? What's the tactic?

I think there's also an interesting point about the idea of seeing inequality as being fundamentally fair, but I acknowledge that it's mostly glossed over in the video as it races towards a conclusion.

I have been waiting for the reaction to this for a while, and while I'm not surprised to see people recoiling from it, I'm also not surprised that the objection is lack of nuance rather than lack of accuracy. I don't really think the egalitarian illustration presented in the video is any more nuanced.
posted by Merus at 6:41 PM on March 22


What's the tactic?

Playing to their mysticism sometimes works.
posted by flabdablet at 7:53 PM on March 22


This re-ignites my warm feelings towards my conservative friends. I may re-friend them on facebook!
posted by otherchaz at 7:57 PM on March 22 [1 favorite]


To me, the hierarchy looks like a consequence of the core conservatist belief as identified by Frank Wilhoit: that there must be in-groups whom the law protects but does not bind, alongside out-groups whom the law binds but does not protect.

I agree, especially with his point about finding common ground in anti-conservatism and not 31 flavors of other-isms. This is necessary because conservatism is simply the primitive state of submission and resignation and is represented by all major world religions. Conservatism is God blessing the winners and cursing the losers. In other words, fate and fatalism. It conserves volunteer charity as a key virtue, exempting kings and royal treasuries, thus preserving them. Conservatism generally runs counter to mutual self-defense and the Golden Rule as secular philosophies of living.
posted by Brian B. at 7:58 PM on March 22 [7 favorites]


which is why I always come back to Socialism As A Set Of Principles , its not one particular tenancy or -ism it;s a way of looking at the world I find to be the most humane and workable and egalitarian. In the end you have to have a framework in which you view the world and its really hard if you assume everyone else has the same one.
posted by The Whelk at 9:02 PM on March 22 [14 favorites]


Quite dispiriting when you finally get around to realizing that about half the world can't think properly and really does just wilfully prefer to believe in unicorns.
posted by flabdablet at 9:04 PM on March 22 [3 favorites]


like one thing I've gotten from my experience and reading is that conservatives do not genuinely believe bottom-up movements are real. Everything is top down, everything has to be planned before hand, everything is a plot and if you think there's a genuine popular sentiment you're an idiot because of course its a trick.

Because they cannot imagine a world 1) without an elite and 2) where the elite do not control everything.

and this results in a lot of projection.
posted by The Whelk at 9:41 PM on March 22 [38 favorites]


They really do think we are after their trucks and guns and houses.

eh, it's a fair cop
posted by murphy slaw at 9:43 PM on March 22 [10 favorites]


conservatives do not genuinely believe bottom-up movements are real

Oh I think the opposite. They love and mythologize bottom-up movements when it's their tribe. THEY are shimmering golden heroes when they resist, OTHERS are whiners, liars, criminals, deadbeats, pawns of the Commies who should be straight up murdered.
posted by fleacircus at 12:18 AM on March 23 [5 favorites]


conservatives do not genuinely believe bottom-up movements are real. Everything is top down, everything has to be planned before hand, everything is a plot and if you think there's a genuine popular sentiment you're an idiot because of course its a trick.

Quite so. And understanding this is the key to understanding the conservatist response to 9/11. Rather than viewing Al Qaeda as a network phenomenon held together by a common ideology and a largely shared sense of anti-US grievance for which Osama bin Laden was a prominent spokesperson, the Bush Administration could not help but conceptualize it as a centrally run organization that could be defeated by going after its putative Top Men. And this was its internal justification for joining the honor roll of nations taking their turn to bomb the shit out of Afghanistan.

It also goes a long way toward explains the complete blind spot that conservatist Administrations have when it comes to defending the US from white-supremacist right-wing terrorism which is, just like Al Qaeda, a network phenomenon with a common ideology and a shared sense of grievance. The Administration literally cannot think that; the only threats it is capable of perceiving come from hierarchical organizations with identifiable leaders. But it knows what American leaders look like because it is American leaders, and it knows that none of the notorious alt-right nutbags has anything like the kind of power it wields itself, so it literally cannot think of the alt-right as a credible threat - especially since the victims of alt-right terrorism tend to be members of those necessary out-groups that the law binds but does not protect.
posted by flabdablet at 3:02 AM on March 23 [16 favorites]


The principle does not only apply to the law of the land, but to the unwritten laws of social conduct as well. This is why the conservatist side is red-hot on insisting that responses to the current Administration's latest brutal outrage must always be conducted with civility.
posted by flabdablet at 3:09 AM on March 23 [4 favorites]


Everything is top down, everything has to be planned before hand, everything is a plot and if you think there's a genuine popular sentiment you're an idiot because of course its a trick.

There is some common thread here with conspiracy theorists, ant-vaxxers, and Qanon. The one exception that jumps out to me is the tea party, which was actually orchestrated (viz interviews with tea partiers caught flat footed when confronted with the facts of where the money and talking points were coming from), but which I would presume most conservative folks see as more of a grass roots movement despite those facts.
posted by axiom at 4:01 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


Or do they just think they are telling the same lie everyone does?
posted by idiopath at 4:07 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


I have yet to meet a conservatist capable of perceiving the essential difference between grassroots and astroturf.
posted by flabdablet at 5:26 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


So I suppose when Mr Danskin is drawing a distinction between "liberal/democracy" and "conservative/capitalism," it just doesn't really resonate with me. I believe in all of the above, which motivates me to reject a lot of the current leftist thinking.

So, one of the topics you should read up on more is the various political theories of democracy. It isn't just representative government. There are some differing, competing ideas or definitions. Some theory I've read focuses on state structures. A state defines or distinguishes between citizens (who are allowed to participate in the decision making) and non-citizens (who are prohibited from participating in the decision making). Other theory I've read focuses on the core idea of giving decision making voice to those who will be affected by a decision (sometimes called "direct democracy" to emphasize this point).

Historically speaking, politics and economics were considered part of the same discipline: political economy, which dealt with how we make decisions on matters that collectively affect lots of people. Economics was split off from political science around the early days of capitalism, in part out of political motivations, to strengthen the idea of the inevitability of capitalism. The idea was that, under capitalism, the state or populus weren't making decisions about economic matters; they just sort of happened, therefore it wasn't "politics". But this is, definitionally, non-democratic, in that it removes a whole giant branch of potential decisions from collective deliberation and control. The idea that capitalism is a form of democracy or the only possible democratic economic system is the end result of some pretty heavy marketing, not an idea that aligns well with the actual definitions of these various systems.


One of the major difficulties in having the sort of discussions like Danskin is attempting within a US context is that US political parties are so skewed relative to the rest of the world or political theory. Mainstream Democratic policy platforms (pre-DSA) are equivalent to conservative policy platforms pretty much everywhere else in the world, and the US Republican party has been pushing what would be considered far right platforms elsewhere in the world for many, many years now.

The political philosophy categories and descriptions align better with the more common, global categories. In other words, it sounds like you're actually a conservative, even though it sounds like you root for/buy the "Democrats" team/brand.
posted by eviemath at 6:44 AM on March 23 [15 favorites]


conservatives do not genuinely believe bottom-up movements are real. Everything is top down, everything has to be planned before hand, everything is a plot and if you think there's a genuine popular sentiment you're an idiot because of course its a trick.

Quite to the contrary, and almost the polar opposite of my perspective. I'm quite conservative, because I want to preserve the societal systems we have, to allow exactly this -- bottom-up mobility, and the freedom of the people to effect incremental change. I can only speak for myself, but I'm no conspiracy theorist, and I also dislike up-front planning.

One of my major objections to left-wing politics is the tendency toward demanding top-town control, in the form of legal restrictions that must be complied with. The stark Robert Moses era public housing projects in New York -- which required top-down clearance of slums and top-down centralized planning -- are not only an eyesore, but also fail to support the communities they were designed to.

My objection to top-down control is precisely why I tilt conservative.
posted by phenylphenol at 6:55 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


So, math (specifically prisoner's dilemma models from game theory) has been heavily abused in US political arguments over the past century (Soldiers of Reason is an interesting book related to this). But it gives a couple insights that I find useful.


1. Definitions of fairness

One branch of game theory is fair division - cake cutting, divorce settlements, etc. When you start to look into fair division algorithms, you see that there are (currently) around ten or twelve different notions of "fair". What's more, much like Arrow's Theorem in the theory of voting systems, it's often impossible for one system to satisfy all possible ideas of "fair". This comes up in Frans de Waal's work on primate behavior, too (eg. in The Age of Empathy), and no doubt many other places. Basically, "fair" can mean that everyone has enough. But it can also mean that no one has more than anyone else. Or it can mean that how much each primate gas is tied to some idea of "merit". Leftists, liberals, and conservatives all value fairness, but use different definitions that are not necessarily commensurate in all cases.


2. Complex systems and emergent behavior

Play Conway's Game of Life, or watch some bird flocking or fish schooling behavior, and you'll see an example of a complex system that can exhibit global structure or regularity despite having a purely local rule set.

This is actually the same as the idea or theory behind market economies: that, despite no centralized control and every individual making decisions just based on their own individual interests, the economic system as a whole can still be structured rather than chaotic, and can work for the best interests of most/everyone.

Some leftists (on the anarcho-syndicalist / anarcho-communist end of things, as opposed to the state communist end of things) believe that overall structure through local decision-making is possible - although in order to achieve fair and humane outcomes, we need to change who has input into which decisions. Conservatives seem to disbelieve the existence of emergent behavior (eg. former Canadian PM Stephen Harper's famous disparagement of the entire field of sociology, which is, in essence, the study of emergent phenomena in the complex system that is human behavior), with the notable exception of an unquestioning faith in capitalism. Liberals vary, but many seem rather hesitant on the idea of emergent phenomena - but, with more intellectual consistency, at least apply this in the economic setting as well as the political setting, and advocate for economic regulations. State communists seem to disbelieve in or distrust emergent phenomena as much as conservatives - but including in the economic realm, like liberals - but have a different definition of fairness than conservatives and thus end up advocating for different political and economic structures.

Reasoning accurately about complex systems doesn't really come naturally to humans. Our brains are primed to find patterns in the world around us. And our brains have the capacity to reason about complex patterns. But without practice or training, our intuition tends to suggest more direct causality and simple patterns. So whether someone sees or distrusts complex systems and emergent phenomena is not a moral judgement on that person. But this is something that - very broadly speaking, at least - tends to correspond with different political theories or positions.
posted by eviemath at 7:20 AM on March 23 [12 favorites]


So, one of the topics you should read up on more is the various political theories of democracy.

Very familiar! I've spent far more time than I'd care to admit diving into political and economic theory from Adam Smith onward, and I appreciate and more or less agree with the historical outline you provide, at least as far as the discipline is concerned. To qualify my statement a bit:

I'm a liberal, in the sense that I am committed to civil rights, secularism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, free trade, and free markets. This is within the Enlightenment vein, with a focus on the rights of the individual. I'd also call myself a progressive, since I believe in a continual process of betterment of our civilizations, mediated by science --- however, these days "progressive" seems to refer to people pushing for things like race quotas and soak-the-rich redistributive policies.

I support democracy, because states are enormously powerful, with a monopoly on violence and the administration of law. States simply must be accountable to the people, lest individual rights be trampled, and we wind up with too much state tyranny. When dealing with existential matters and how we manage them as a country, one-man-one-vote is essentially.

I support capitalism, because it's the only economic system that allows societal rewards to accrue to those who offer the most value to others. Money to me, especially fiat currency in the post-Nixon era, is simply a marker of whether or not a person has enough "social karma," so to speak. While there is corruption in the system, we can create reasonable safeguards and controls to root it out and punish it.

I'm a conservative because I want to preserve this system, that has worked so well to create the most prosperous country yet known to man. We must preserve individual rights and liberties, conserve property rights, allow the free market to flourish, and limit the power of government. Especially now that identitarian politics is ascendant, Marxist ideation about systematic oppression is mainstream, and people are having existential crises all over Twitter, I'd like to stand up for good morals, self-reliance, positive-sum thinking, and personal freedoms.

A large part of the confusion is when "liberal" started to become a slur used by Republican commentators, probably back in the 80s or so. At least, that's as far as I can tell.

In other words, it sounds like you're actually a conservative, even though it sounds like you root for/buy the "Democrats" team/brand.

Yes! Bring back the Blue Dogs, I say.
posted by phenylphenol at 7:25 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


former Canadian PM Stephen Harper's famous disparagement of the entire field of sociology, which is, in essence, the study of emergent phenomena in the complex system that is human behavior

At least as I understand it, Mr Harper was objecting to the social-constructivist attitude of sociology as a discipline that it's had since Durkheim, Marx, and Weber helped usher it in. I'm in the same boat.

I don't think this has anything to do with whether or not conservatives believe in emergent behavior, though. After all, typical appeals to the free market are precisely motivated by an appeal to emergent behavior, and pointing to how to potentiate it for the greatest good.
posted by phenylphenol at 7:29 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


And this, folks, is why centrism will always play the wet nurse to fascism.
posted by Reyturner at 7:31 AM on March 23 [13 favorites]


While there is corruption in the system, we can create reasonable safeguards and controls to root it out and punish it.

allow the free market to flourish, and limit the power of government.

I feel like the tension between these two ideas is where we reach our unbridgeable divide.

As a socialist, I see the corruption as endemic, and as a conservative, you would see the "reasonable safeguards and controls" that I want to see implemented as gross constraints on the free market and an unconscionable expansion of government power.

Money to me, especially fiat currency in the post-Nixon era, is simply a marker of whether or not a person has enough "social karma," so to speak.

Money to me is simply economic power, and as far as I can tell it is a marker of whoever starts out in life with enough of it for positive feedback loops built into our systems to cause it to accumulate independent of personal merit. (Which is not to say that personal merit is not a factor, it's just that it is quickly dwarfed by the power of compound interest and network effects.)
posted by murphy slaw at 7:50 AM on March 23 [14 favorites]


When you say "identitarian politics," I'm assuming you mean stuff like this trans equality ballot initiative. For many conservatives, the stakes are whether businesses were legally coerced to put up with individual choices the conservatives disliked.

For me, and for other people with the identity in question, the stakes are the extent to which we can use public facilities without harassment. I see the conservative stance here as opposed to our personal liberty and safety.

In sum, if you use language like "identitarian politics," I hear a dog whistle and assume the speaker is a bigot who would love to bar me from movie theaters and gyms. Even if I were capitalism-flexible, that's a heck of a dealbreaker.
posted by bagel at 8:35 AM on March 23 [25 favorites]


we tried 40 years of letting the free market do whatever it wants and trust in the government to simply “regulate” it and it gave us a situation where we have about 12 years to try to prevent the extinction of all human life. That’s the legacy of conservatism and capitalism.
posted by The Whelk at 8:53 AM on March 23 [38 favorites]


this system, that has worked so well to create the most prosperous country yet known to man.

Hahahahahahaha!

Or, to be less glib: citation needed. As well as an explanation of what definition or measure of "prosperous" you are using.
posted by eviemath at 8:58 AM on March 23 [16 favorites]


Or, to be less glib: citation needed. As well as an explanation of what definition or measure of "prosperous" you are using.


I assumed that by "prosperous", it was meant that the American system is good at creating new wealth, which I would probably grant. My objection to that usage is that can you call it "prosperity" when the bulk of that new wealth never enters the economy in a meaningful way due to hoarding and tax evasion, and when the most precarious people in the system see stagnation or decline in their effective wealth?
posted by murphy slaw at 9:06 AM on March 23 [6 favorites]


Okay everyone, I know it’s been quite a while since there’s been a self-labeled conservative around here, but that’s not all rush in at the same time.
posted by FJT at 9:06 AM on March 23 [5 favorites]


The part of the video I thought was the most interesting was when he was saying that of course a minimum wage hike would be unpopular with conservatives because "you don't need $15 to be a minnow." Everything is about preserving the hierarchical order and then filling your role (as peon or billionaire or whatever) as thoroughly and "honorably" as possible.

You're just as good of a minnow at $7.25/hour as you are at $15/hour so who cares that your actual lived experience is much worse. In fact, you're probably a "better minnow" at $7.25/hour because it's even more in your face (and everyone else's) what your place in the pecking order really is.

What blows my mind about all this is that it seems like in this perspective, everyone's suffering is so abstract and "justified." Like, of course you should sacrifice your own well-being in order to preserve the "natural order." Because the safety of the "natural hierarchy" is supposed to be more important than your actual material safety right now.

The whole idea of not only being very conscious of political and socio-economic hierarchy but loving it and being happy to sacrifice millions/billions of people to preserve and strengthen it is mind-boggling to me. Like you see literal suffering right in front of you and think, that means the world is safe and as it should be?!

Something else that blows my mind about this is how completely antithetical it is to Christian teachings. I mean, that mindset very directly goes against pretty much everything in the New Testament. You'd think in a country like the US, where Christianity dominates so much of life/culture, that more people would have religious objections to all this?
posted by rue72 at 9:20 AM on March 23 [8 favorites]


In sum, if you use language like "identitarian politics," I hear a dog whistle and assume the speaker is a bigot who would love to bar me from movie theaters and gyms.

I understand the dog whistle fear, but just to reassure: I'm 100% in favor of anybody's right to patronize any establishment meant for public use. I don't buy any of the "keep our kids safe" stuff with restroom use. To my knowledge, there's no evidence that people who choose to present differently from their biological sex (and associated social norms) are more likely to commit sex crimes. I reject that kind of fearmongering, and embrace the conservative viewpoint of "live and let live."

At the same time, around 99.4% of the population identifies according to their sex, and I do think there's good utility in having all-men's and all-women's spaces. Splitting men's and women's restrooms is just a social custom to help people regroup, keep their waste elimination out of the sight of potential suitors, groom a bit, and maybe discuss things that people of the same sex have in common. But if a nonconforming (and non-"passing") person shows up in the wrong space, I think the polite thing to do is just let things be and try not to be an asshole.

The identitarian politics that I reject are the ones that split into us-versus-them thinking and perpetuate tribalism in general -- that's the dangerous stuff. People who push legislation to systematically ban some people from some spaces are always impinging on individual freedoms. But people who push legislation to coerce people into certain behaviors (like, "be polite and respect my life choices") might inadvertently impinge on them.

For me, and for other people with the identity in question, the stakes are the extent to which we can use public facilities without harassment.

I do believe it's important for the state to criminalize some forms of harassment, but not all. I'm glad that unprovoked physical assault is illegal, but wouldn't want playground bullies thrown in jail. Harassment is a spectrum; on one end you have full lawlessness, and on the other you have totalitarianism. I think there's a lot of grey area here, which is why it's so important that we discuss things openly -- hence my celebration of freedom of speech.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:34 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


I assumed that by "prosperous", it was meant that the American system is good at creating new wealth, which I would probably grant.

At the level of basic values and definitions we're getting down to, though - like, where we're talking about labor theory of value versus other theories of value - we also need to define what we mean by "wealth" though? Is it GDP? Is it per capita GDP? Is it GNP or per capita GNP? What about other measures that aim to take into account non-monetary forms of "capital" such as educational access or production, health, art? There are a variety of competing measures for assigning value to such things, which changes what we mean by "wealth", even within a more or less capitalist context.
posted by eviemath at 9:46 AM on March 23 [3 favorites]


My objection to that usage is that can you call it "prosperity" when the bulk of that new wealth never enters the economy in a meaningful way due to hoarding and tax evasion, and when the most precarious people in the system see stagnation or decline in their effective wealth?

I think you probably still can. If you're comfortable with the idea that wealth generation can be roughly indexed by the sum value of publicly traded enterprises, then the pie is growing exponentially, and has been, roughly, for well over 100 years. The real question to me isn't whether the bulk of the wealth enters our economy as circulating currency. It's whether the proportion of wealth that does is sufficient to lift the median standard of living in the US ever higher.

A lot has to do with what the comparison is against. The problem with wealth inequality, as far as I can see, is just that it provokes grass-is-greener human jealousy, which can be destabilizing to a society. It's in our nature to index our wellbeing off that of others, and this is the thing to be most careful of. But if we were to index off our standard of living 20 years ago, all the creature comforts we have now (including encyclopedic human knowledge at our fingertips on Star Trek style hand-held satellite-communicating magic machines) start to make it clear that we're all better off.
posted by phenylphenol at 9:50 AM on March 23


I'm glad that unprovoked physical assault is illegal, but wouldn't want playground bullies thrown in jail.

I don’t understand why emotional and social violence are permitted while physical violence gets legal consequences , when in the modern world, the former is much more likely to be used as a tool to keep marginalized people from succeeding inside the existing power structures.
posted by murphy slaw at 9:54 AM on March 23 [9 favorites]


And this, folks, is why centrism will always play the wet nurse to fascism.

Insofar as there is no central fact or reason to any position called centrism, it has many issues. What is missing in these discussions is moderation, often confused for centrism, but which does not pretend to any fixed goal or position at all. Moderation is a personal skill, much like problem solving for results. Voting is a form of moderation and is why absolutists tend to ban it as soon as possible.

That’s the legacy of conservatism and capitalism.

They both work together like a pyramid scheme, one producing more labor and the other more jobs, moving a few people up the ladder like Amway or chain letters, producing capital by this method. The modern problem is thinking that they don't succeed for the majority economically because of exploitation, which often leads people to assume that communism both succeeds economically and is not exploitative, by simply opposing capitalism with a plan that eliminates things like money and trade. A problem arises in communism when there is no demand function such as price, voting, or competition to quit making or doing a terrible thing, whether that thing be toxic, defective, genocidal, exploitative or otherwise. Communism has no brakes, which makes it worse than fascism. The latter serves corporations and their worldly objectives while the former serves a mix of pseudo-populist dogma and secret party goals, which both exist as absurd abstractions, therefore far more dangerous to all living things.
posted by Brian B. at 10:11 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


I do believe it's important for the state to criminalize some forms of harassment, but not all. I'm glad that unprovoked physical assault is illegal, but wouldn't want playground bullies thrown in jail. Harassment is a spectrum; on one end you have full lawlessness, and on the other you have totalitarianism.

I'm morbidly curious about this. It sounds like you believe our options are "Nazi propaganda is cool and acceptable" or "mass incarceration now extends to thoughtcrime." I will point out that current legal precedents have changed the landscape on how businesses permit communication around religion, race, and gender, for the most part by enabling lawsuits.

If the fear of litigation outweighs the desire to indulge in bigotry, we're suppressing speech, and I'm happy about it. The freedom to use slurs is less valuable than their targets' freedom from fear. Similarly, I'm fine with country clubs that announce they only admit Protestants getting eaten alive by lawyers. If that's totalitarianism, sign me up.
posted by bagel at 10:16 AM on March 23 [9 favorites]


I don’t understand why emotional and social violence are permitted while physical violence gets legal consequences

For me at least, I was raised to believe that "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me." In my worldview, sticks and stones are violence, but all else is purely navigating human relationships in a civil society. Growing up, I was taught that the very definition of violence was physical assault, and it's never the right thing to do. Walk away from bullies, and talk it out if you can. Violence was always a last resort.

I've been in an emotionally abusive relationship, but I wouldn't call that violence, just a bad situation. I chose to leave. I suppose I think the line between the physical and non-physical is a useful guide to deciding what is "violence" and therefore civically inappropriate, and should be subject to criminal prosecution.

If the definition of "violence" expands to "things people say that I don't like or make me feel bad," and if state intervention is then requested to remediate these situations, then I think we'd be going too far toward state-based totalitarianism.
posted by phenylphenol at 10:16 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


If the definition of "violence" expands to "things people say that I don't like or make me feel bad," and if state intervention is then requested to remediate these situations, then I think we'd be going too far toward state-based totalitarianism.

Today I learned that Title IX is state-based totalitarianism.
posted by bagel at 10:19 AM on March 23 [15 favorites]


Metafilter: I wouldn't call that violence just a bad situation.

If anything we're getting an object lesson in the comfortable blindness that privilege affords.
posted by klanawa at 10:29 AM on March 23 [15 favorites]


I've been in an emotionally abusive relationship, but I wouldn't call that violence. I chose to leave.

I might argue with you on the first point, but the bigger point is that these abuses can take place in contexts like employment, school, or housing where “choosing to leave” is costly or impossible.

You seem to be generalizing from your own experiences that these abuses do not occur, or when they do, it’s no big deal. Assuming that this is not good fortune on your part but rather the default is what we pinkos mean by “privilege”.
posted by murphy slaw at 10:33 AM on March 23 [18 favorites]


I'm morbidly curious about this.

I'm happy to expand, in good faith.

If the fear of litigation outweighs the desire to indulge in bigotry, we're suppressing speech, and I'm happy about it. The freedom to use slurs is less valuable than their targets' freedom from fear.

I think this is probably where we really have disagreement. In my life, my most meaningful and self-actualizing experiences have been when I overcame my personal fears, and had my courage rewarded. These have been the times in my life where I felt a sense of character development and personal growth.

To my mind, if the solution to feeling afraid (desiring "freedom from fear") is to make other other people afraid (of lawsuits), then that seems to be closer to a game of mutually assured psychological destruction, rather than something that can lift everybody up.
posted by phenylphenol at 10:33 AM on March 23 [1 favorite]


Those were interesting videos.

Personally I think the defining feature of conservatism is brutality. This is easy to see with some conservatives, less easy to see when it's just the bland callousness of the successful moderate, situated far away from the scenes of the brutality from which they might benefit, for whom self-justification is a hobby. You'll find their acceptable brutality in the curve of a graph somewhere.
posted by fleacircus at 11:05 AM on March 23 [6 favorites]


To my mind, if the solution to feeling afraid (desiring "freedom from fear") is to make other other people afraid (of lawsuits), then that seems to be closer to a game of mutually assured psychological destruction

You're seriously trying to equate "fear of ostracization and physical violence" with "fear of facing repercussions for ostracizing or harming people because of their gender identity?" I'll assume everybody here is arguing in good faith, but goddamn, dude, if you think that someone worrying that they might face legal backlash if they don't provide unisex bathrooms is in anywhere near as much distress as someone fearing for their life if they use the "wrong" bathroom, I don't see how there can be much productive conversation had around this.
posted by Mayor West at 11:14 AM on March 23 [15 favorites]


I am not sure what would you suggest, then, in order to "lift everybody up." What sort of "meaningful and self-actualizing experience" do you believe activists ought to have in response to religious, racist, and/or sexist discrimination?

Like, forget LGBTQ stuff for a moment. It sounds like the preference of someone who wants a "whites only" sign outside a sandwich shop is more important to you than the impact of that sign on everyone else. I think that person should be coerced into taking down the sign, because the bad feelings they have about not being able to marginalize others are not important to me.

A lot of businesses use or used the "out" of market demand - it's not that they don't want to be fair to everyone, it's that they'd lose customers if they served or employed minorities. It's not clear to me how many people are actually experiencing fear and pressure of being forbidden from discrimination.
posted by bagel at 11:29 AM on March 23 [5 favorites]


You're seriously trying to equate "fear of ostracization and physical violence" with "fear of facing repercussions for ostracizing or harming people because of their gender identity?"

No no! Only inasmuch as it represents one group of people feeling afraid, and responding by trying to make others afraid. I completely agree that there are two different types and degrees of fear here; I'm not trying to equate their severity.

At the same time, severity of ones experienced fear is within ones own hands -- that's more or less what characterizes courageousness. We're all trying to find our way in the world, and judge as accurately as possible what the actual threats are, their likelihood, and where they may come from. The only other thought would be that I think it would be more appropriate to legislate based on empirically measurable risks, rather than who feels the strongest fear.
posted by phenylphenol at 11:32 AM on March 23


Phenylphenol, I’d have to agree with the criticism that your conservatism (or, perhaps more accurately, libertarianism) assumes that if a person is in a bad situation they can choose to change the situation. I don’t know your background, but I come from a conservative, almost entirely white rural area where this mindset is fairly common because you feel it’s true for your circumstances and everybody resembles you.

The idea is stengthened when you actually do manage to work yourself toward an improved position — why doesn’t everyone else do the same thing? My family always hovered at the poverty line, used WIC and coupons, multiple kids, shopped on price at several grocery stores and Kmart/Wal-Mart, and we all worked retail jobs. Despite that my parents went back to college after I graduated high school, and all but one person in my family now has a degree, and I have a nice job in tech.

The meritocratic view began to fall apart when I was exposed to people on the internet from different circumstances and backgrounds. What permanently changed my view was the realization that although my background wasn’t easy, and I’ve worked hard, I did in fact benefit from privilege.

I got a college degree — for free, covered by a small scholarship that was larger than the incredibly cheap tuition at my community college. I got that scholarship via the private school my parents were able to afford, where I did well because my parents supported curiosity and learning. I taught myself programming — but I had the resources to spend a decade learning a skill that interested me. I was completely unemployed for about two years during the recession; couldn’t even get a job as a janitor — but I got a job at a startup because I knew one of the founders, and could get by on low pay for several years.

Even putting all that aside there are many people who, through choices or circumstances, find themselves in situations that they simply can’t change or escape without severe personal risk. To use your own example, what if the abusive partner is the only real source of income? Or you’ve just had a child and don’t have anybody who can watch the child if you get a job. Or if you leave you’ll be completely cut off from everyone you know.

That doesn’t even touch on the marginalized groups in society who face discrimination and/or physical violence for existing (hate crimes), or face structural inequalities (e.g. voter disenfranchisement, redlining, …)

It’s much easier to believe in fairness, self determination, and improving your situation in life when you’ve had the good fortune that they’ve actually worked for you.
posted by stilist at 11:40 AM on March 23 [18 favorites]


It sounds like the preference of someone who wants a "whites only" sign outside a sandwich shop is more important to you than the impact of that sign on everyone else.

Not at all! Discrimination based on race in public places like sandwich shops is obviously odious, immoral, and rightly illegal. Everybody deserves their fundamental dignity, and our country functions based on the idea that despite our differences, we're all created equal.

Perhaps by a "meaningful and self-actualizing experience," it could be something like overcoming ones fear of perceived political opponents, making friends with them, disagreeing politically, having a discussion, working things out, realizing that we have many shared values starting to work to find the right policy position, in specific terms. I'm not always the best at that, but when I strive to do it and succeed, it's generally rewarding.
posted by phenylphenol at 11:41 AM on March 23


[phenylphenol, at this point please take a step back and let the thread breathe. It's becoming a circular "convince me on my own terms, while I shift the meanings of my terms" thing, which is a waste of other people's time; these arguments about free speech vs intimidation/discrimination/etc are pretty well-worn.]
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 11:53 AM on March 23 [10 favorites]


Discrimination based on race in public places like sandwich shops is obviously odious, immoral, and rightly illegal.

Though the video is specifically trying to explore areas where what is obviously odious and immoral to one person is not obvious to another person because of their underlying values. Like whether healthcare is a question of fundamental dignity, or if it's something that should be reserved for those who have accrued sufficient societal reward.
posted by RobotHero at 11:53 AM on March 23 [5 favorites]


I enjoyed the video. Seemed to make sense but covered a lot of ground so some of it left areas that were ripe for further exploration. Although it seemed US-centric in its perspective (which is fine - I suspect thats the target demographic).

It would be interesting to see a conservative perspective on liberalism or even a self-reflective conservative perspective. Or even an overlap of left/right on Conservative/Liberal (or even Progressive). For example, if you live in a Scandinavian country, is it conservative to want to retain the status quo with regards to strong state social systems? Or is it liberal to want to dismantle them? Or should a strong well educated/housed/healthy society be apolitical?

The public-sector is far from perfect, but for provision of social services its better and more efficient than the free-market (or charity). You could dismantle these services (which many countries have or are doing in the name of free-market reforms) but I doubt the service will become more efficient - time and effort could be better spent improving the public-sector itself than letting the market decide.

While these types of global surveys can have many flaws, I'm generally amused to see social-democracies (are they liberal ('free social services') or conservative ('state-control')?) feature prominently in the top-10 of things like the Happiness, OECD Better Life or Transparency, Life Expectancy, Where to be born, Social Progress, Good Country index etc. The US doesn't do too badly and excels in many areas - but it could do a lot better given its aggregate wealth.

As a Kiwi (and I suspect the majority of people in a top 20 OECD country) I would see current Conservatism in the US as a drag on societal progress. Sure people can potentially make $$ or become successful but whats the point if the majority of people are struggling and society itself starts to fall apart, polarise/factionalise further?
posted by phigmov at 11:56 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


I'd say that experience being possible, much less 'generally rewarding', is only viable within a narrow band of stability/being insulated from whatever the topic at hand is.

Like, this isn't meant as a gotcha. I used to do high school/college debate for a long time. I lived that idea of The Discourse being possible and rewarding and valuable.

But the imagery of 50's-era "we may have our differences, but we can share common ground" party lines only works when there's that homogeneity & insulation from consequences that's always implied but never stated. "Hrm, hrm, should we change marginal rates from 85% to 86%?" etc.

But you're not making any difference in arguments *from* the people who in the past said "The rights we have are well and reasonable, but forcing people to assemble? That's just too far!", you're just taking where you are as given and anything further as out there, as if it's self-evident that the progress of past generations was as far as things should've gone.

And it all breaks down when there's skin in the game, to use imagery that comes up a lot in this sort of political band. You want to protect playground bullies for fear that their targets might use a form of protection which you don't like, while sanctioning their methods because it was "meaningful and self-actualizing" to have to deal with that with one's arms bound by your sense of propriety.

You're saying that the rise of outright white nationalists is fine, up to the moment before they strike someone, and that to take their threats of violence seriously would be impermissible.
The historical outcome of this belief can be seen in the US turning away refugee ships in the lead-up to WWII. Years later, you go "How could we have known? How could we have stopped this sooner?", but that doesn't bring anybody back.
posted by CrystalDave at 12:04 PM on March 23 [7 favorites]


phenylphenol, it's really difficult to argue with you, because your entire schtick is essentially a string of wordy platitudes. "Could," "should," and "would," aren't ways of addressing reality. Try a more concrete approach: "can," "will," "is," "was."

Like, I hate to Godwin this shit, but you know who also loved freedom of speech? This guy. But he was smart enough to know that words are acts. Without words, without a platform, he was just another milquetoast loser with nothing to offer. With them, he could control a vast army of enablers (and ultimately soldiers.) Words have force, otherwise why speak at all?

To corrupt a phrase you'd probably otherwise agree with, "words don't kill people, people kill people." But if you're honest, you'll see why that logic breaks down for speech in the same way that it does for guns. Words and people together are components in a singular mechanism of action. That particular guy's freedom didn't "lift anyone up", but it did result in the deaths of sixty million people.

It's nice that abstract principles give you a refuge from the gritty particulars of reality, but reality has a tendency to intrude, and words have a very real and powerful way of shaping that reality. What you might see as neutrality on some topic is not, in effect, neutrality. You can be for, or you can be against. As I like to say, my grandfather didn't go to war to "defend freedom of speech," he went to kill fucking Nazis. If Hitler hadn't had a platform, grandpa could've stayed home.

Instead of fixating on a fictional universe where anyone can say what they like without causing harm, and robust citizens can let cruel words roll like water off a duck's back, look instead at reality and at the effects words have, and have had, on actual people and circumstances. If you don't think words can harm you, maybe consider the fact that you have not experienced disempowerment sufficient for mere words to attain that power over you. Maybe nobody has taken enough interest in you to target you. That is privilege.

I notice that most of your arguments emerge from your own personal experiences. That's fantastic. I'm glad that you were able to leave your abusive relationship and experience character growth! I wonder if you could spare a thought for, say, those people who weren't lucky enough to survive the abuse?

Or maybe take a minute to ponder how someone who experienced years of physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of his father, and multiple suicide attempts by his mother, would approach the task of raising a son. How much work do you think it would take to develop his character sufficiently? And how long? Because I'm talking about my own father here, and though he never raised a finger against me or spoke a word in cruelty, the damage done to him is visited on me in turn, in the form of emotional unavailability and instability, and I don't think the power of your positive thinking can realistically heal me before I lie down for my eternal rest.

More, I wonder whether I should discount my own experience of intergenerational trauma and abuse, because it doesn't admit of the sunny optimism yours does? I'm not trying to discredit your experiences here, but it doesn't seem like there's room for both, and your experiences are obviously much more real to you than mine.

Maybe I'm simply weak, or I'm not trying hard enough. Maybe I lack that essential something that allows you to pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on. For his part, my dad managed to have a successful career in politics fighting to change the conditions that people like him had been forced to live under. He didn't use his success to shame victims of trauma for their failures, though. He used the creative power of empathy to embrace all of the different ways that people suffer and succeed to create a narrative of inclusion, opportunity and support.

That last thing is, to me, at the core of the divide between conservatism (as practiced in the present world) and its alternatives. If you do not use your capacity for empathy and imagination to try to inhabit other peoples' lived realities, you end up projecting your own reality into the void. If you've lived a life or privilege, you end up with a seriously distorted picture of what real peoples' lives are like. You can not extract a useful model of reality from that. You have not.
posted by klanawa at 12:11 PM on March 23 [26 favorites]


incomplete revolution don’t fundamentally change the power structure - the jacobins’ couldn’t give the peasants the land reforms they really wanted,

Whelk brings up a good point, though it is a matter of debate if France's was an incomplete revolution. But the Jacobins were not the real reformers per say as accorded with the 1789 convention. The Jacobins were to busy trying to grab power under the guise of a more progressive revolution whilst killing girondins.
The question is is if the people had a better deal in '89 or '94. Stands to reason if the 3 estates were to cede power while still controlling the means of production, what is reform for, the betterment of the people or power re-distrubution.
How'd that work out for France?
posted by clavdivs at 12:29 PM on March 23


Reminder about the specific meaning of exponential growth in quantitative contexts.
posted by eviemath at 1:24 PM on March 23 [3 favorites]


If you've lived a life or privilege, you end up with a seriously distorted picture of what real peoples' lives are like. You can not extract a useful model of reality from that. You have not.

Interesting. I digress with Kunderas' passage in chapter one of "The Unbearable Lightness of Being" that "There is an infinite difference between the Robespierre (Jacobin) who eternally returns, chopping off French heads." That idea of ' eternal return' is interesting as a pallet of Play-dough® none the less, Robespierre, not a model of reality for one who lived so austere. His playing to the people with pious dreams and lofty thoughts ended into a cult, the man couldn't even shoot himself right.
He was a lawyer from Lyon, not a laborer in Marsallies (sic sp). The internal power struggle, by 1794, was vapid. At least Danton knew what he was. Robespierre, dead. Ok. But then we get Pol Pot, another plan fan with a French education.
posted by clavdivs at 3:09 PM on March 23


When someone has been asked to leave a thread alone, it seems a little unfair to continue to harangue them.
posted by pharm at 3:37 PM on March 23 [14 favorites]


Also I think this was a missed opportunity. The original video posits "this is what conservatives believe" that an actual self-described conservative did not see themselves in, and instead of interrogating that, the thread mostly just... interrogated their beliefs?
posted by Merus at 11:06 PM on March 23 [1 favorite]


The original video posits "this is what conservatives believe" that an actual self-described conservative did not see themselves in....

In my experience, very few conservatives would accept an honest description of their beliefs or goals. It all has to be at least cloaked in a layer of euphemism to avoid conflicting with their inner narrative. You can see this pretty easily if you look at the way conservatives discuss policy goals or law enforcement, among other things.
posted by IAmUnaware at 2:47 AM on March 24 [9 favorites]


Several of the points from the video map quite well onto our friend's comments (including the bit about people having multiple perspectives that they operate from contextually - eg. some proportion conservativism, some proportion liberalism), and an analysis would be interesting. But probably rude under the circumstances.
posted by eviemath at 4:08 AM on March 24 [1 favorite]


I've been thinking a LOT about this topic lately (well, for the past 3 years, for obvious reasons), and I think the video is well worth the watch.

I will say I had a poor reaction to the first 4 minutes of this video, because it was too much like a strawman of the conservative perspective, but afterward it changes gears and steelmans it instead. However, it ultimately makes assumptions about the "real" thinking going on "inside" the conservative person's head--going so far as to posit they're in outright denial of their own thinking. Personally, I feel the same way, but it's certainly not going to win any hearts and minds on the other side, so I wouldn't try to share it with any conservative you don't think is very open minded.

I don't remember where I first saw it, but among the best descriptions of conservatism (in America) that I've found is "the fear that somewhere, someone is getting something they didn't deserve." I think this video pretty well subscribes to that description. Plus, it's a great explanation of why the Republican party currently seems like it's run by outright fascists.
posted by Room 101 at 7:38 AM on March 24


I think another aspect of the conservative mindset, at least in the United States, is an extreme focus on the individual. There is very little of acknowledgement of the impact of systems and broader situations; everybody is treated as an individual unmoored from the society around them, erasing any systemic advantages or hindrances. This, plus a distrust of government, makes conservatives hostile to the idea of “balancing” measures like social aid or affirmative action. The more compassionate among them favor charity provided by non-governmental organizations and individuals, because it’s an individual “choice,” rather than something imposed by a central organization.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:03 AM on March 24 [8 favorites]


"the fear that somewhere, someone is getting something they didn't deserve."

This gets applied completely circularly, though. If somebody is as rich as Croesus this is always taken as evidence that they Worked Hard For It, even though in fact they might have done nothing in their lives but sat on their arses while living off the proceeds of an inherited stock portfolio. If somebody has been dirt poor and getting food stamps for years, especially if they have the temerity to try to raise children while poor, then they're a Dirty Cheating Welfare Queen regardless of how many jobs they work.

It's more like resentment of anybody who accepts something handed to them that I Would Refuse On Principle, the applicable principle being that the only legitimate form of income is payment for the exercise of skill (where "skill" also encompasses the judicious choice of parents).
posted by flabdablet at 8:08 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


The circular aspect is maybe like in the endnote video, Adam Smith's labour theory of value vs. Edmund Burke's theory. If the value of what you've done is defined solely by what you can get paid for it, then by definition, everyone always deserved whatever they were paid.

I don't think anyone 100% believes that view but they'll resort to it rhetorically when they want to defend capitalism.

Those that fight tooth-and-nail against the government giving to the poor and then voluntarily give to charity, show they don't 100% believe that view. But it means they see deserving poor and undeserving poor and do not trust the government to give money to the right sort of poor people.

The Bigger Fish video would see this in terms of the right to make that decision is a power of sorts, a power the belongs in the hands of the wealthy, rather than a power that belongs to a democratic institution.
posted by RobotHero at 9:12 AM on March 24


Based on phenyl's comments, I think the crux is they would rather discuss money in terms of material comfort rather than in terms of power. Thus the repeated objection of "zero-sum" thinking, insistence on "rising-tide" and that any objection to wealth inequality is only "grass-is-greener human jealousy."

This all makes perfect sense if a wealthy person has the same power as a poor person, and their only difference is material comfort.

Hopefully this is not piling on, and they can correct me if I'm mis-representing them.
posted by RobotHero at 9:26 AM on March 24 [4 favorites]


To me, the video seems to be describing what the model conservative believes in. But I think most conservatives probably fall short of the "model" conservative. This is not to say his video is wrong. He specifically states he has done the reading. But I don't think most people "do the reading" when they form and reinforce their political stances. It's an accumulation of personal experiences, background, and knowledge that they have picked up over their life. And because of that I do agree with him that a lot of people have different political ideas and belief systems in them.

Another thing I do have a thought on is if conservatives believe that the hierarchy that's there is a natural state, then they should be confident that it won't change or will be only temporarily disrupted and return to it's natural state. They should see anyone's attempt to disrupt or break the hierarchy as futile as attempting to block out the sun, right?
posted by FJT at 10:05 AM on March 24


Didn't Lyndon LaRouche write about neo-hegalian statuettes, Hobbe-knobbing Adam Smith with faux liberal platitudes?
posted by clavdivs at 12:39 PM on March 24


When someone has been asked to leave a thread alone, it seems a little unfair to continue to harangue them.

Kind of agree, but what I wrote, at least, was more of an attempt work work out my issues around their position than the position itself. Having said that, that person did favourite my comment, which I prefer to consider a sign of good faith and willingness to engage.
posted by klanawa at 1:56 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


Based on phenyl's comments, I think the crux is they would rather discuss money in terms of material comfort rather than in terms of power.

Yes, I think you have my perspective exactly right; there's no piling-on here! I do think that we'd all be better off if money were seen primarily as a means to achieve freedom from want, rather than a tool to wield some sort of "power" over other people.

This all makes perfect sense if a wealthy person has the same power as a poor person, and their only difference is material comfort.

I guess that's how I see things, yes. If the implied idea is that the wealthy have more power, then I'd be curious to know what kind of power this is, what its exercise looks like, and why it might be so desirable to wield. Is it something like the power to employ people and fire people, perhaps, or to otherwise have substantive impact on the lives of others with the decisions you make day-to-day? That's an enormous burden, unless the you're a sociopath of some kind.

Anyway, very happy to have this conversation with everybody! I feel really great about it, for what it's worth -- I've certainly learned a lot, and I'm glad the Blue is still the Blue.
posted by phenylphenol at 8:44 PM on March 24


One of the things I firmly believe, and yet find the most difficult to convince middle-class conservatists of the soundness of, is exactly that a desire to own a huge fuck-off yacht is absolutely a marker of sociopathy.

If you have a huge fuck-off yacht, just who is it that you're telling to fuck off if not almost everybody? And if your heart's desire is to be able to enforce your desire that almost everybody must fuck off, how are you not a sociopath?

It's really really hard to make a conservatist understand that even though they may have worked hard for the comforts they have, the folks with the huge fuck-off yachts have almost never worked harder than them in order to be able to pay for their yachts and their private planes and their gilded lobbies and bathrooms; they've got there by gaming their way there, essentially just taking maximal advantage of the rules of the current order with no regard for the effects of their actions on those without the means to do the same thing.
posted by flabdablet at 9:15 PM on March 24 [2 favorites]


I do think that we'd all be better off if money were seen primarily as a means to achieve freedom from want, rather than a tool to wield some sort of "power" over other people.

I think we'd all be better off if elephants were seen primarily as intelligent and social rather than kind of large.
posted by flabdablet at 9:21 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


I really like this conversation as well wit the author o The Reactionary mind (used as research for the video) about the need for hierarchies, what animates and unifies right-wing groups, and how the right is in a very weal position right now it basically got everything it wanted. It;s just over a half hour and I found it very illuminating.
posted by The Whelk at 11:29 PM on March 24 [5 favorites]


My sense is that a lot of conservatism seems to represent a field defined by the following elements:

1. moral luck - most people or groups that prosper do so because of their merits; bad outcomes, or falling short of good outcomes, must be the result of choice in some way; outcomes are strongly individuated in general, and "good" people or "good" choices will overcome any set of circumstances;

2. naturedness/essentialism - groups, systems, or behaviors in some way reflect the immutable "essence" or "nature" of people, things, and/or the world; this may be figured as actual nature (spontaneous organization of markets and Austrian-style axiomatic thinking), God's plan for nature and the moral essence of various phenomena), "civilization" (certain historical/social formations have innate characteristics that cannot be dislodged without eradicating them; these traits in some way reflect essential characteristics of the people and/or the land whence these civilizational forms emerged historically); tendency to see the world as a set of stably ordered signs that admit of a stable, uniform "reading"

3. preference for normativity - the way things are or have been forms a standard against which other ideas or outcome patterns are judged; tendency to treat one's own experience as and choices as coherent with essential moral and social "truths;" fear of/dislike of deviance as defined against prevailing standards

4. reactance - strong rejection of suggestions from "outside" the self or the group with which one identities; tendency to view behaviors, rules, or changes originating in outgroups as inherently undesirable or abhorrent ("unnatural," "immoral"); strongly situational belief that one is ultimately responsible only to those to whom one has chosen to be responsible

While all of these elements tend to reinforce one another, different conservatisms emphasize some over others. Right libertarianism, for example, places much more emphasis on moral luck and reactance than on normativity and essentialism. (But these aren't entirely incompatible; see, for example, Hans-Hermann Hoppe.) Conversely, the American mode of evangelical fundamentalism tends to strongly emphasize normativity and naturedness.

By combining them, you can get to a lot of conservative ideas. The combination of reactance and essentialism, for example, tends to mean that "the state" is treated as a different kind of actor, on a deep and essential level, than other structures that may be equally top-down, claim a monopoly on violence in practice if not in law, and so forth. And the connections between the preference for normativity and the degree of reactance might explain why, for example, many conservatives simultaneously believe people should be "good neighbors" and yet reject efforts to define larger-scale social responsibilities or contributions.
posted by kewb at 3:49 AM on March 25 [5 favorites]


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